‘Yes! Watson and Oliver is back!’ said nobody this week. The commissioning of a second series of the sketch show came as a surprise, considering series one received mixed reviews and poor ratings, losing over half its audience at one point. Presumably there will be a third series to follow this second one then, unless the two hosts, I don’t know, spit in the face of the Director General of the BBC. Maybe they’ll black-up in a sketch.
The second series comes with an obvious budget cutback, losing the studio audience and Morecambe and Wise like segments from last series, as well as the regular famous guests. Less money and resources is hardly likely to improve the show, and after watching the first episode, it’s clear that, yes, it’s still awful.
Most sketches in episode one were built on really weak premises; what if the Prime Minister wanted to get out of a dinner party? What if surgeons didn’t just wash their hands, but their whole bodies? What if prisoners had a dance and, er, that’s it, but we’ll draw the sketch out for two minutes, and include not just no jokes, but, in fact, no dialogue whatsoever.
Watson and Oliver also have no idea how to get out of a sketch, meaning each one drags on forever. There’s a sketch where the joke is that Watson has assigned the theme from Psycho as the ringtone for Oliver. When Oliver rings the phone, she hears the ringtone and is angry. Hilarious – now end the sketch. But no, Watson answers the phone and says ‘hello?’ Hilarious – end it now? No, the sketch drags on and on with a series of poor punchlines that get increasingly weaker until the sketch exits at its worst point.
This happens in a number of different sketches. It starts getting awkward, like you’ve wandered into someone else’s private conversation. Or at least, I would have felt that way, if it wasn’t for the constantly screeching audience who think everything is hilarious, from okay gags, to poor ones to footage of a woman walking a little bit funny, before it’s even been explained why she’s doing that, and before it’s happening long enough for most people to even register it. Please, BBC, stop trying to cue my laughter in. If something isn’t funny, playing the sound of a hundred idiots over-reacting on the soundtrack isn’t going to change that.
If I was to praise anything about the show, it would be the acting. But I’m reluctant to do that, because I suspect that is why they’ve been given a second series. ‘Yeah the jokes are terrible, and there is no originality in the sketches, and the ratings are bad and the reviews are mixed, but their performances are kind of funny.’
That is not enough. I gave Anna and Katy, the Channel 4 sketch show from two other female comedians, a pretty bad review. But compared to this, that show is groundbreaking television. And I don’t mean to insult Anna and Katy by saying that; that show at least had a voice and attempts at originality. Watson and Oliver on the other hand is just really weak.